From Bench to Desk with help from UKCSJ Scholarships

 

by Josh Howgego one of five students awarded scholarships to attend the Conference

This year the ABSW has awarded five scholarships for student members to attend the second UK Conference of Science Journalists, on 25th June. Alongside free admission, the students get a chance to report on all the sessions at the conference and hear from some of the best writers in the industry.

But are scholarships like this important, and who are the recipients of these awards?

Like several of the other students awarded a scholarship, I am a science PhD student who wants to make the transition from the lab bench to the (science) news desk. For me, the main reason why such awards and prizes are important is because getting into the media is a tough challenge, and any kind of recognition and encouragement helps.

The scholarships are also important because of the experience, exposure and potential for learning that attending the conference offers to fledgling journalists.

For example, I like the idea of trying out data journalism – looking at some data and trying to spot trends and patterns that could make a good story. As a scientist I'm no stranger to data, but when it comes to using it in journalism, I don't know where to start. How would I choose amongst all the data out there? How would I manipulate and present it?

So, the session on data journalism – along with other talks on essential skills – should be a useful training exercise for people like me. I hope to come away with new ideas and an understanding of some of the online tools to get me started.

But I'm a scientist, right? The reason I don't have the skills to do things like data journalism is because – well, that's not my job yet. Perhaps I should just stay a scientist and be happy that I get to do a very interesting job.

Well, maybe. Certainly I think there are scientists who see science writing as an easy option.

But in defence of scientists with healthy journalistic aspirations, a 2010 report commissioned by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills ('Science and the media: securing the future') recommended that more scientists should work in the general news media because they understand the subject matter better, and could improve the way science is reported across a broad range of publishing platforms.

More scientists working as professional journalists could have a positive impact on the way science is reported. These UKCSJ scholarships provide encouragement to those scientists who really want to enter the media.

The Student Scholarships are supported by The British Psychological Society